The iPhone 4… can you make a phonecall or not?

A few weeks ago we blogged about the launch of the iPhone 4 in the UK. Though impressed by the little device we were not able to take one back, the lines were just too crazy long. And one of the things why an iPhone from the UK is so interesting is because they sell it unlocked (I guess one of the reasons the lines were so long). Fortunately one of our Fellows and good friend lives in the UK, so a phone call later and €738 lighter my iPhone 4 was ordered (thanks Jolanda).

It was an interesting three weeks waiting, especially since Apple held it’s press conference about the ‘Antennagate’ during this period. It’s absolutely amazing how many people told me they heard the iPhone 4 was a flop, a design error and that you can’t make a descent call with it. They asked me for advice…

Well, first of all I’m an Apple fanboy. It took a while to admit, but there’s little the company can do wrong in my undoubtedly narrow view of this part of the world. My view, therefore is biased. However, I do know how large commercial organizations work and I also know the power of digital media. And with that, I explained my view on the case.

First off, I think Steve Jobs is a visionary, a genius in what he is doing and in what he has achieved. Having seen him IRL on stage an absolute rock stars for geeks like me. He is honest and authentic. But he’s also a commercial guy. One thing though he should not do anymore, is start communicating in his direct and authentic way during the rise of a small crisis. Stating ‘Just hold it differently’ in a response to a complaining customer about the lost signal may be authentic, it’s not wise. I’m also not saying that Apple should put an army of silk-smooth PR people on it, but there’s no doubt a way in between. As far as my opinion goes, this is about the only thing they did do wrong. Let’s have a look at the other accusations:

It took Apple too long to respond.
Well, looking at the above example of Steve Jobs they responded rather quickly. Too quickly perhaps. Truth is, they wrote a statement that they were going to update the software, and soon after that they organized this press conference. I’ve worked for a multinational, and I’ve launched pharmaproducts on a global scale. One thing I can assure you, launching products like this is no doubt one of the most complex business processes you will ever find. So many disciplines are involved, and so much internal communication takes place. The company has worked it’s *ss off to develop the product, to make it market ready and to design the marketing campaign, ramping up the production and organizing distribution. Once Day 1 has arrived it’s a matter of keeping your fingers crossed, in a sense. If you then receive a complaint that reception drops you take note of it, but you are not yet restructuring your entire production process yet. Millions and millions of iPhones are being sold in a very short period of time. Of course you have people complaining. You will always have people complaining because some people like that so much.

Then more complaints drip in and with all these digital communication ways it’s difficult to distinct a true complaint (the source), or the many, many stories being written about that complaint (writing about the source). You check the numbers and they don’t seem to resonate with the things you are hearing on the internet. But things get worse and just to be sure you start an investigation. If companies respond internally faster than 2 weeks after the first rumours arise, I think they do an excellent job. I believe Apple did. It took them 22 days to investigate the situation, organized a press conference and came up with a solution (well, sort of).

Apple only organized this press conference because Consumer Reports were burning down the reputation of the iPhone 4 by not recommending it
We will never know for sure, but that could be the case. Of course you will defend your crown jewels if an influential organization such as Consumer Reports blames your product. And let’s face it, not recommending a product reads for many people: ‘don’t buy’. Although not the same (Consumer Reports does have a category ‘don’t buy this’ for crappy exploding stuff) this is what John Doe believes. Also true, Consumer Reports has put itself on the world map. The PR it got from this article is worth millions and millions of dollars. Smart.

I see my bars dropping when I hold my iPhone in a certain way
True, I can see that for myself too. But guess what, I see that on my 3GS as well. To be honest, pre-Antennagate I hardly looked at the bars and I believe most of us didn’t. Post-Antennagate we all seem to have become some sort of antenna-experts, scrutinizing the slightest drop in the number of bars in the teenieweenie small upper left corner of our iPhone (which, by the way, looks stunning on a Retina Display). I really don’t care about ‘bars dropping when I hold it like this or that’. Get over it. It seems that most mobile phones are experiencing this, so what’s the deal anyway? What I am interested in, though, is dropped calls.

The iPhone 4 has much more dropped calls
Frankly, I don’t know yet. What I do know is that if I hold my new iPhone 4 in a certain way (the ‘Death Grip’) I see the number of bars going down, basically the same as with the 3GS. They never go under 1 bar however, so I still have a signal and thus a conversation. With my 3GS I had dropped calls too. Occasionally, when I was commuting to work going through a rural Dutch area, I lost a phone conversation. Just dialed back, blamed the provider and life went on.

According to Steve there are indeed more dropped calls with the iPhone 4 as compared to the iPhone 3GS: less than one per 100 calls. Less than one in business terms usually means 0.9 or so. And if the average drop call rate is, say 2 or 3 per 100, that is still a significant increase. Steve’s own pet theory stating that more people use a case with the 3GS (80%) compared to the 4 (only 20%) might be correct. But put it in another daylight. How many phone calls do you make on a day? 10? 20? 30? Let’s say you make 30 phone calls a day. In about 3 to 4 days you had 2 dropped calls using your iPhone 3GS. Now you have 3 dropped calls. Will your life be over? Can’t you run your business anymore?

If you have a phone that dropped calls several times a day, that’s of course not acceptable. But 1 dropped call every 3-4 days more? Wouldn’t seem to be such an issue for me, especially when you compare it to the new features on the iPhone 4 (Retina Display, speed, battery life, HD video, 5MP camera, front facing camera, FaceTime, thinner form factor, design)

Apple wanted to become rich selling $30 plastic bumpers which have no doubt a cost price of a few bucks
True. But when did you ever blame a commercial company of making money? Don’t like it, don’t buy it. Vote with your wallet. Wait a few more weeks and you have a plethora of bumper, cases and what have you to choose from. No issue anyway, because you get a free bumper now.

Apple is losing it’s grip on the mobile market. Android will win.
We’ll see. And to quote Steve Jobs when asked about the relationship with Microsoft: “I think we have to let go of the notion that if Apple wants to win, Microsoft has to lose”.

I will test the iPhone 4 extensively the next few weeks (that is, I will just use it the same way as my iPhone 3GS) and report back if I see any disturbing shortcomings. For now all seems fine. I’m eager to learn your take on this. Do you share my fanboy-ish thoughts? Do you have experience with the iPhone 4? Good or bad? Let me know and drop me a line in the comments. Or find me on FacetTime 😉

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Do you have a moment.. a lot of moments? iPhone 4 launch UK

Crazy. That’s what I can say. How on earth is it possible that one company can make people stand in line for more that 32 hours, for a piece of glass and sillicon? To camp on the streets of London like a homeless person, to fight for the right to enter first, to be one of the few to lay their hands, no, to own a .. phone?

Yep, they did it again. Apple today infused the European continent with their next iteration of the iPhone, creatively named the iPhone 4. That the iPhone was a huge hit may not come to a surprise to many of our readers, but that they could pull it off again is remarkable, to say the least. It clearly shows the effect of state-of-the-art technology in combination with superb marketing.

We were in London to participate in a congress on mobile technologies which was organized *coincidentally* the day after the launch of iPhone 4. We couldn’t resist, being in London the day this device was launched, so we took the sub to Regent Street. Silently hoping two iPhones would be left, waiting to be picked up by two Dutchies.

Our dreams were shattered when entering the proximity of the Apple Store. Crush-barriers were keeping the queu in line, special Stewards were facilitating the immense flow of people, the loooong line, waiting to get in. The first person in line waited for 32 hours, flew over from Dubai and when the doors opened was being held back to let people who preordered the iPhone came in first (whom *only* waited for 16 hours). The guy is pretty pissed-off (although he did get his iPhone) and promised to write to Steve personally.

Obviously we had no time to wait that long, so we had to do it with some tangible hands-on experience with this marvelous piece of technology. And boy, this screen is *crisp*. There is no way you can see that the letters on the display are actually on a display. It really looks like they are printed on the screen. The phone feels solid -may be a bit heavy- and the design is awesome. It does make the 3GS look sooo 2009. The front facing camera will open new possibilities and though we couldn’t test FaceTime ourselves I’m sure we will have a lot of fun with it. We could only ‘testdrive’ it for about 3 minutes. People waiting in line behind us were getting inpatient to touch it themselves. Socially as we are, we let them.

With envies eyes we had to leave the Apple Store. Not empty handed, but with a real Apple iPad case and a pair of in-ear headphones. Silently we took the tube back to the hotel. Dreaming of what we’ve seen, looking forward for what is about to come…

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